Anyone who has watched and followed Griffin Canning since his days pitching for Santa Margarita Catholic High School likely weren’t surprised with the success he had right from the start in the majors.
Canning walked out to the mound for the Los Angeles Angels on April 30, picked up the ball inside Angel Stadium, where he had watched dozens of games in his 22 years, and acted like he’d been on that hill a hundred times before.
Canning retired the first ten Toronto Blue Jays he faced, including five in a row by strikeout in a dazzling stretch that bridged the second and third innings.
Canning departed pitching 4 1/3 innings in his major-league debut, allowing three runs and four hits with six strikeouts and a walk. He left with the Angels leading 3-2 and the tying run on third base, which eventually scored, but the Angels went on to win 4-3.
Canning returned to the mound a week later at the Detroit Tigers, a game that received considerable attention beforehand because it was the season debut for Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, but Canning stole the show then too.
Displaying just as much poise and effectiveness as he did in his first start, Canning allowed two runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, long enough to get credited with his first major-league win in the 5-2 victory.
“Canning looked good,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus told reporters afterward. “He actually looked really good for the large chunk of time that he was out there.”
Getting the manager’s stamp of approval is always a plus for a rookie, but Canning said he felt accepted throughout the clubhouse.
“Everyone told me when I got up here that I belong,” Canning said. “That’s the biggest thing: Confidence. I’m just trying to keep my head down and keep getting better.”
Canning’s former coach at Santa Margarita likely wasn’t surprised at how easily Canning first transitioned to the major-league level.
David Bacani watched Canning cap his high school career at Dodger Stadium by striking out 11 batters in a 3-1 win against Foothill in the CIF-SS Division I final.
“It’s like he was born to be in that arena, be on that stage,” Bacani said at the time. “Griffin is one of those guys, who, in a moment … can have the poise, the competitive edge that he’s not going to let (adversity) affect him.”
Canning is the first pitcher from Santa Margarita to start a major-league game.
Servite leads the way with three, including Mike Witt, who made 272 starts for the Angels from 1981-89 and was Canning’s pitching coach at Santa Margarita.
D.J. Houlton, a 1997 graduate of Servite, made 19 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 2005 season. Marc Rzepczynski made 23 starts in his first two seasons in the majors with the Blue Jays in 2009-10 before moving to the bullpen over the next eight seasons.
Canning got his foot in the door in the majors by dominating at UCLA and then carving his way through the minor-league ranks in less than two years.
After his solid start with the Angels, Canning was confident that success would continue.
“I definitely have the advantage because these guys haven’t seen me ever,” Canning said of the opposing hitters.
Good chance they’ll be seeing a lot more of Canning in the coming years.